Developers Jarle Halsnes and Chip Coe propose to use this site in the South Valley to host wetlands mitigation for a new gravel mining operation that could last 15 to 20 years. The pond in the photo was created by a temporary gravel pit used solely for the widening of Colorado Highway 131. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on the application Tuesday.

Photo by Tom Ross

Developers Jarle Halsnes and Chip Coe propose to use this site in the South Valley to host wetlands mitigation for a new gravel mining operation that could last 15 to 20 years. The pond in the photo was created by a temporary gravel pit used solely for the widening of Colorado Highway 131. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on the application Tuesday.

Gravel pit opponents speak up

Commissioners to consider pre-application Tuesday evening

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If you go

What: Routt County Board of Commissioners hearing to consider a pre-application for a gravel mining operation about 6 miles south of Steamboat Springs on Colorado Highway 131

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.

Call: County offices at 879-0108 for more information

On the 'Net

Learn more about Alpine Aggregates at their Web site.

At a glance

Steamboat Sand and Gravel Mine

- Life of pit: 18 to 20 years, depending on market

- Anticipated mining: 300,000 tons per year

- Proposed hours of operation: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays as needed in summer

- No asphalt or concrete plants

- Plan to mine 5 acres at a time while reclaiming previous 5 acres at the same time

- Visual screening in the form of more than 350 cottonwoods on berms, as well as wetlands enhancement, would be done at the front end of the project

— Opponents of a proposed gravel pit south of Steamboat Springs have caught wind of the project they thought was dead in the water four years ago.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners will review a pre-application for the Steamboat Sand and Gravel Mine and a subsequent land preservation subdivision Tuesday.

Before the pre-application's hearing before the Routt County Planning Commission last month, county planners were worried that they hadn't heard more from the public. That's because the proposal is similar to, and on the same site as, a Lafarge West project approved by the county in 2005 after years of heated debate.

"The word is definitely out now," said Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips, who said he received 12 e-mails about the proposal last week. "I would anticipate more opposition and, who knows, more support for the application. There was some support (from the public) at the Planning Commission meeting."

Phillips said the commissioners themselves also responded favorably to the new proposal, which was crafted with past concerns in mind. The Lafarge permit never was executed, and it expired. Lafarge had filed a complaint in Routt County District Court contesting several provisions of the permit including the requirement of a conservation easement, the elimination of a concrete batch plant, fog mitigation requirements, restrictions on hours of operation and a limit on the maximum area of site disturbance. The court ruled in favor of the county.

Although Phillips said the commissioners were impressed with the new proposal's reclamation plan and intent to disturb only 10 acres at a time, David Josfan said the proposal is a worse plan in the same location. Josfan is a member of the Concerned Citizens group that fought the gravel pit earlier this decade. He recalled demonstrations downtown protesting the mine, a petition opposing it signed by 1,000 residents and overflow crowds at hearings in Centennial Hall.

"It's something that's very important to us," said Josfan, who said he still worries that many residents don't know the idea has resurfaced.

Chip Coe and Jarle Halsnes are representing Steamboat Sand and Gravel, but Ed MacArthur is shepherding the proposal through the planning process. MacArthur is the managing partner of Alpine Aggregates, which would operate the gravel operation if it's approved.

The proposal is for 147 acres - 87 of which would be mined during 18 to 20 years - six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado Highway 131. Five acres would be mined at a time while the previous 5 acres are reclaimed. No concrete or asphalt plants are proposed on the site, and MacArthur has said measures will be taken to shield the visual impacts of gravel crushing, cleaning and loading operations. Phillips said a conveyor belt would be the only part of the operation visible from Colo. 131.

"The gravel pit received some pretty favorable comments based on the reclamation plan and disturbed areas," Phillips said.

Alpine Aggregates also placed heavy equipment in the crushing area to give neighboring residents a chance to assess the visual impacts. On its Web site, the company offers to run its machines at the crushing area to allow residents to determine what they would be able to hear from the mine.

Josfan remains concerned about issues including the truck traffic that would be generated from the operation. Alpine Aggregates expects to sell 300,000 tons of gravel a year. Between April 15 and Nov. 15, the company projects that 11 trucks an hour would enter and leave the site during the five-day work week.

Josfan also said the proposal amounts to "20 years of destruction" at a sensitive point along the Yampa River. The Yampa River Wells, which supplement the city's domestic water supply, are nearby, and Josfan said the fill material used in reclamation could have an adverse impact on groundwater supplies.

MacArthur did not return a message left at his office Friday. The gravel mine pre-application claims other public benefits such as donations to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which MacArthur is president of; enhancement of existing wetlands and the creation of new wetlands; and the lessening of truck traffic from gravel operations west of the city through downtown Steamboat to projects south of the city.

The pre-application process is an informal step in the county planning process that allows county officials and developers to discuss conceptual plans and concerns. Feedback will be solicited, but no formal action will be taken at Tuesday's meeting. Steamboat Sand and Gravel Mine's next step will be to file a formal application for a special use permit.

Comments

snoman 4 years, 6 months ago

As a resident that commutes 131 everyday and lives on a gravel road and drive, and suffered through interminable construction on 131, the need for a pit in the South Valley is obvious. But make sure the controls are in place with a STRONG reclamation plan.

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Marian Marti 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, gravel must come from somewhere... Do you want to see the South Valley torn up in the most visible spot possible? Where most tourists, year round, will look at it as they enter our pristine valley - or should we say our valley that will look like the destruction you see presently as you drive into Silverthorne, so it's beauty becomes past tense? Won't that add to our tourism on which our economy depends? Do you want to see a gravel pit, of proven low quality gravel, in this spot for 20 to 30 years depending on how many roads and driveways can use it dependent on demand? The gravel at this location is NOT good for concrete, a fact that Lafarge tried to hide, and McArthur admitted. (Interestingly enough, there is a much larger deposit of high quality gravel, which has been determined to last over 80 years, in the works presently.) Halsnes, McArthur and Coe intend to bring 80% of their gravel North - that means through town as there is not much building at the Mountain area for years to come, ie. snowbow's theory of the traffic issue in town from the west, really means, truck traffic from the east going to Steamboat 700, 360, and other projects. And, McArthur's projected truck traffic in and out of this location is 1+ trucks per minute turning into traffic going north and south on Co 131 within an extremely short and dangerous distance of the regular fog events on the Yampa River at this site. Fog and traffic safety was a huge concern during Lafarge's application phase, and this application from McArthur, Jalsnes, and Coe just tries to sweep it under the rug .

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Amy Harris 4 years, 6 months ago

Rather than relying on misinformation being spread by one person in particular, I suggest that anyone who would like to hear more about this project attend the preapplication hearing in the commissioner's room tomorrow night at the courthouse at 6 pm. Virtually all of the concerns listed by this person are addressed by the plan in a very thoughtful and complete manner.

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AGM 4 years, 6 months ago

Not in my back yard!!!

Maybe we could just snap our fingers and have a gravel pit that would be in the most perfect location - exactly next to where it will be used and never a truck that has to travel on a road - out of sight of absolutely everyone. Oh yeah, completely noiseless as well. Let's make it so incredibly difficult to get this approved so that it raises the cost of aggregate through the roof so that we can make sure we pay more for this needed product than anywhere in the US.

I know we all love our community just the way it is, but people....have a sense of being reasonable at some point....please.

For one moment you might consider that the people developing this also have a great passion for this valley as well. They have the same concerns as you do.

But the ol' adage of the squeaky wheel gets the grease continues to be so very true in our little slice of paradise.

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greenwash 4 years, 6 months ago

Id rather have a pit we can all benefit from rather than a 10,000 sq ft spec house with big iron gates.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 6 months ago

If the big advantage of this pit is to reduce traffic through SB then they should propose a condition that none of their product will be trucked through downtown SB.

Note that if any of their product is trucked through downtown then that truckload would be an INCREASE in traffic.

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